24 hours of Midwifery

In the future I know that I will share many stories of births…experiences that families have generously shared with me – I will be sharing them with you when I’ve received permission.

Until then, I would like to tell you birth stories from the midwife’s point of view. No, I’m not going to talk about these family’s births per se…I’m going to talk about being a midwife and what that means!

For most people, if you say the word “midwife” it brings forth several predictable images: a woman looking very hippie casually sitting around someone’s family room with candlelight waiting for a baby to be born, a baby is born, and she goes home and life goes on.

Alright, I have to admit that most of that is true – but that’s only a partial truth. In this post I hope to tell you MORE of the truth. (The whole truth is way too complicated for one little post) A midwife is so much more than this glorified highlighted version. A midwife is fatigue, stress, joy, excitement, unpredictability…

So let me just share with you my last 24 hours.

I get a call from mom 1 (A) – her water has broken but she is not having contractions yet. We wait – this is the ‘patient” part – and we keep waiting.

Mom 2 (B) calls at 6pm – her water just broke, but she IS having contractions. I head to mom B’s house. She’s working hard….we monitor her and the baby…and we wait, but my heart and mind is split between the two first time moms, and I hate that feeling. When I’m at a birth I try to be wholly present, thinking of nothing more than this family, this mother, and this baby. I wonder if I will miss a birth, do I have to call in a backup midwife – what is about to unfold. This is the stress, and the unpredictability.

I get a call from another midwife asking if she can borrow some supplies. Of course! She comes to the home of mom B and picks up supplies. This is the best part of midwifery…the sisterhood we share and the way that there is always someone that you can call on if you need to.

Mom A calls (actually, her husband calls) – I have to leave B and head to A’s house for a bit as her husband thinks she’s getting close. I leave my apprentice to monitor B (and her baby) and drive to A’s home. Things aren’t as advanced as they’d hoped, so I leave a second apprentice at A’s home while I pack up and head back to B’s house.

If you think you’re confused…try being the midwife, shuffling from house to house, juggling who will be where, who to call, trying to guess which mother will birth her baby first (unpredictable, remember?!).
I go back to B’s home…approximately 5 hours after I re-arrive, and the situation is such that warrants a hospital transport. I feel guilty for how relieved I am that A hasn’t needed me back again. We go to the hospital.at 8am and a beautiful baby is born via cesarean (my first cesarean in 2 years – and I’ve been doing about 50 births a year) at around 12:30pm. My heart is broken for this family that worked so hard throughout the night, but I am overjoyed at their beautiful healthy daughter. I head home at around 2pm.

3:30pm and mom A wants to encourage labor. Apprentice goes over to A’s home to monitor her and baby while I get a quick nap. I sleep from 5:30 until 9pm (thank goodness!) Situation needs me at A’s home, so I hop out of bed stumbling to get dressed, and head out the door into the night once more.

So far I’ve travelled to B’s home, then A’s home, then B’s home again, then hospital, then my own home, and now A’s home again …

Remember that A is the one who called YESTERDAY saying that her water had broken. Nothing we are doing is working, it’s really time to head into the hospital nearby as it’s been a day and a half, the stress in the home is increasing, and nothing is succeeding in getting labor going.

At 10pm we head to the hospital – this is my 3rd transport in 2 years (my second was earlier this same day!). I help get A settled into her room, everything in place and calm, and then at 12:30am I go home to get some quick sleep (10 minutes from the hospital). I get the call from them at 7am (after I’d had about 5.5 hours of sleep) that she is getting close to having the baby and wants me at the hospital. I BOUNCE out of bed…and for the first time I catch my reflection in the mirror – and I wish I hadn’t.

I can handle the lack of makeup, deodorant can cover a lot of stink….but the greasy stringy sticking up hair! Not even my hair-ties could fix it! As I’m tossing on my shoes I get a moment of brilliance….and I shake some baby powder onto my hands and run it through my hair. Yup…it does hide at least a little of the greasy…and I grab my purse and head out the door.

A VERY cute 9 pound4 ounce baby is born gently into her mama’s hands. I am very happy for them…although I have to admit my vanity came into play when the grandmother asked for a picture with the Dr, the mom, and me…the image of my tired eyes with the dark circles, the missing makeup smeared on my face, my stringy hair with the baby powder roots…and knowing that this picture would be something they would remember forever. Ugh. But I smiled bravely for the portrait.

I get home at 9am, check email, and head straight to a bath. Oh, glorious bath! Washing away the stress, the sadness of a disappointing birth experience, the worries I’ve had for both mothers for the last day….and also the baby powder! If I could write a love poem to something other than my husband, it would be for the feeling of a bath after a long birth! I finish the bath, brush my teeth, blow dry my hair…and I feel almost human again!! I check myself over in the mirror and, other than the bags that remain under my tired (but happy) eyes…I’m feeling kinda cute!! (amazing how much you take “being clean” for granted!)

I lay down on the couch in the family room for about 15 minutes before the phone rings – making me realize that I fell asleep!! I shake off the 15 minutes of sleep and answer the phone – it’s another midwife who has two mothers in labor and needs me to help at one of them. OF COURSE! (remember the ‘sisterhood’ that I cherish? It is an honor, in my opinion, to be called in by another midwife. It shows a huge amount of trust that they have in you and your skills to be able to care for their client in a respectful manner…huge honor..) As an added bonus, I look a lot less scary for meeting this family for the first time.

I head to help a woman I’ve never met before…and she has a beautiful waterbirth of her first baby. Her midwife arrives about 20 minutes after the birth, thanks me profusely for my assistance, and with joyous hugs I leave to head home once more.

That’s when it dawns on me that I have helped 3 different FIRST TIME mothers have their babies…all within 24 hours!! I have been exhausted, exhilarated, disappointed, joyful, patient, grateful, stressed, relieved….and all within 24 hours.

Oh…and baby powdered.